Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Imphal bound trucks stranded on National Highway-2 on account of ATSUM economic blockade

ATSUM Imposes Indefinite Economic Blockade; Meitei Leepun Locks Head Office of ATSUM; Assembly Okays Population Commission and NRC; Separate code for Sanamahi religion

The All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) has imposed economic blockade in all the hill areas of Manipur beginning from 6 am on August 5, 2022 right after its extended total shutdown ended.

According to ATSUM statements, the economic blockade will continue till their demand is met. The ATSUM and other tribal bodies have been demanding introduction of the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Bill 2021 prepared by the Hill Areas Committee of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly in the Second Session of the 12th Manipur Legislative and Assembly and be passed.

As the impasee between the Government and ATSUM continues, the ATSUM imposed 24-hour emergency shutdown from August 3 in the entire hill districts of Manipur in protest against the arrest of its five leaders ended at 6 pm on August 4, 2022. However, ATSUM extended its total shutdown for another 12 hours till 6 am on August 5.

Since the ATSUM indefinite economic blockade continues, hundreds of heavy vehicles ferrying essential commodities are stranded along National Highway-2 in Kangpokpi district area. As many as 80-90 trucks ferrying essential commodities were seen stranded along the NH-2 at T Khullen village in Kangpokpi district while another 20-30 trucks were seen stranded in the old taxation check post at Hengbung village, reports added.

Assembly Okays Population Commission and NRC

The 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly in its last sitting of the Second Session on August 5 unanimously resolved to establish the Manipur State Population Commission and also introduce and enforce National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the State to identify indigenous people.

The House passed the resolution based on a private member resolution moved by MLA Khumukcham Joykisan under Rule 105 under rules of procedure and conduct of business of the House. Raising the private member resolution, MLA Joykisan said that the hill areas of the State saw a dramatic high growth of population of 153.3 percent from 1971 to 2001. He pointed out that from the period of 2001 to 2011; the population growth in the hill areas was 250.9 percent, which was 120 percent at the national average whereas in the valley, the population growth from 1971 to 2001 was 94.8 percent while the population growth from 2001 to 2011 was 125 percent.

Manipur, being a border State, it is highly suspected that outsiders from neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh etc. have illegally sneaked into the State and settled in different parts. Such unrestrained influx of immigrants from outside countries will utterly affect the future survival of the tiny indigenous communities in the State. The government needs to take care of such an unchecked influx of illegal immigrants, he observed.

The Government of India also allows setting up of population commissions in the State, the MLA asserted that establishment of Manipur State Population Commission and implementation of National Register of Citizens in the State are the only steps that can check such rapid growth of population and protect the indigenous communities in the State, Joykishan said, urging the House to pass a resolution in this regard.

Chief Minister Biren while endorsing the private member resolution moved by the MLA said that such a motion to establish population commission and implement NRC in the State is a collective interest of all the Members of the House. The House can take a resolution and urge the Centre, he added. Later, the House unanimously passed the private member resolution.

Journalists Protest Intimidation, NIA Harassment of AMWJU President

All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union (AMWJU), Editors’ Guild Manipur (EGM) and Manipur Hill Journalists’ Union (MHJU) have jointly condemned the alleged intimidation and metal harassment meted out to AMWJU president Wangkhemcha Shamjai by National Investigation Agency (NIA)  officials on August 2. A protest demonstration was held on August 4 to denounce the “interference” perpetrated by NIA with the working of the media community.

AMWJU, EGM and MHJU have also jointly submitted a joint memorandum to the Home Minister, Governor, Manipur Chief Minister, Press Council of India (PCI) and Indain Journalists’ Union (IJU) detailing the “intimidation and metal harassment” meted out to AMWJU president.

The memorandum expressed “shock and disappointment” on the manner in which the President of AMWJU Wangkhemcha Shamjai was summoned by NIA and “treated him like an accused person at its Imphal office on August 2, 2022”.

A joint emergency meeting of AMWJU, EGM and MHJU was also convened at Manipur Press Club in Imphal on August 3, 2022 and expressed “strong resentment on such treatment meted out to Shamjai”.

The memorandum said that on July 31, Shamjai received a phone call from an officer of NIA asking him to turn up at their office at 10 am of August 2, 2022. “With a clear mind to co-operate with the agency’s investigation, Shamjai turned up on time. However, to his utter surprise, he was left in a small room without being interacted till one officer began interrogating him around noon. He was then hurled with uncomfortable and unrelated queries in another room. According to Shamjai, he was also intimidated by the NIA sleuths. The interrogation continued till around 5 pm”, said the memorandum.

The journalists have urged the authorities concerned to look into the matter and take necessary actions to ensure that the media fraternity is not further harassed by the NIA or any other investigating agencies in future.

Suspended AMWJU Members Released On Bail

Former president of the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union (AMWJU) and another executive member who had been arrested by the Manipur Police for allegedly working as cadres of an outlawed armed group were released on bail by the Special Judge (NIA), Manipur on August 4, 2022.

Former president Bijoy Kakchingtabam and executive member Leishangthem Sanjitkumar were arrested on June 24 by a joint team of the NIA and Manipur Police.

After their arrest, both were suspended from their memberships to AMWJU.

Their bail applications were granted after the court found lack of sufficient prima facie material justifying their further judicial custody term.  Both executed PR bonds of Rs 1 lakh each along with one surety each to allow them to go on bail, as per the court’s order. It also mentioned that both the accused should present themselves before the investigating officer of the case as and when called for and before the court on every hearing of their cases.

It stated that both the accused should not influence prosecution witness (es) so as to dissuade them from disclosing facts before the investigating officer and the court. It added that they shall not leave the state without prior permission of the court.

Separate code for Sanamahi religion

The Manipur Legislative Assembly has on August 5 unanimously resolved to reaffirm the resolution No. 86 passed by the House on August 1, 2003 urging the Government of India to record ‘Sanamahi Religion’ in the census report and also allot a separate code number of the religion in the census operation.

Raising the issue as a private member resolution in the House, MLA Khongbantabam Ibomcha of Lamlai Assembly Constituency said that Sanamahi religion has been widely followed by indigenous Meetei, Kabui and others since time immemorial. He recollected that on July 31, 2002, the then MLA O Joy raised a private member resolution in the House, following which a House Committee was constituted with the then Art & Culture Minister Dr M Nara Singh as Chairman, former Minister Gaikhangam, Chief Minister N Biren, former MLAs DK Korungthang, O Joy Dr Nimaichand Luwang, MLA Y Irabot, BD Behring and L Ibomcha as Members.

The House resolved to urge the GoI to record Sanamahi religion in the census report and also allot a separate code number in the census operation. In census of India 2011, only six religions namely Hindu, Muslim, Shikh, Christian, Budhists, and Jain were recorded with separate code numbers, he said.

The MLA maintained that Manipur was a princely State and was never within the territory of India before its merger to India in 1949. According to the terms and conditions of the Merger Agreement 1949, the GoI shall also undertake to make suitable provisions for employment of Manipuris in various branches of public services and in every way encourage Manipuris to join them.

Under article 8 (3) of the Merger Agreement, the GoI shall also undertake to preserve various laws, customs and conventions prevailing in the State pertaining to social, economic and religious life to the people. Besides, Article 25 (1) of the Indian constitution also prescribes freedom of conscience, free profession, practice and propagation of religion subject to public order, morality and health, he said.

 (Hill Areas) District Councils (6th Amendment) Bill, 2022

While the protests spearheaded by the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) continues demanding introduction of the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Bill, 2021 prepared by the Hill Areas Committee of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly, the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly in its 11th Sitting of the Second Session on August 5, 2022 has passed the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2022 which has increased the number of District Councils to 10 from six.

However, the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022, which incorporates many of the provisions from the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Bill, 2021 prepared by the Hill Areas Committee, has been referred to the Hill Areas Committee after a motion by Tribal Affairs and Hills Minister Letpao Haokip, who said that there were some technical errors in the bill and needs to be examined by the Committee.

Former MP BD Behring Appeals to Governor Not To Give Assent To Three Bills

Veteran politician, former MP and former MLA BD Behring has appealed to the Governor not to give assent to and to reject three bills namely, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022; the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022.

However, the third Bill namely, the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022 has not been passed by the House and has been referred to the Hill Areas Committee after a motion by Tribal Affairs and Hills Minister Letpao Haokip, who said that there were some technical errors in the bill and needs to be examined by the Committee.

In a memorandum submitted to the Governor of Manipur, La Ganesan, veteran politician BD Behring said that the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Sixth Amendment) Bill 2022 is not totally a money bill. The two other bills, No. 14 of 2022, The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill 2022 and Bill No. 16 of 2022, The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) 2022 indicated in the financial memorandum that there shall be no financial involvement from the consolidated fund of the state.

BD Behring contested that The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill 2022 which was introduced on July 29, 2022 and passed by the Manipur Assembly without referring to the Hill Areas Committee.

As per (HAC) order, 1972 under Rule No. 4(1), All Scheduled matters in so far as they relate to Hill Areas shall be within the purview of the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) and clause (2) every bill other than money bill affecting partly or wholly the Hill Areas and containing mainly Provisions dealing with any of the Scheduled matters shall after introduction in the Assembly be referred to the Hill Areas Committee for consideration and report to the Assembly, reminded BD Behring in his memorandum to the Governor.

Therefore, under Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Manipur Legislative Assembly and the Manipur (Hill Areas Committee) order 1972, all three bills should be referred to the Hill Areas Committee, Behring claimed.

Meitei Leepun Locks Head Office of ATSUM Countering Economic Blockade

Countering the bandhs and indefinite economic blockade on National Highways imposed by the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM), Meitei Leepun, a civil society organisation, locked the head office of ATSUM located at Adimjati, Chingmeirong in Imphal on August 4.

According to a video clip sent to media on August 5, ‘Thoupu’ (executive member) of Meitei Leepun, Chinglemba Wahengbam, said frequent bandhs and blockades along the National Highways will be considered as ATSUM is targeting the people living in the valley.

To avoid and condemn the frequent bandhs and blockades along the national highways, Meetei Leepun is locking down the head office of ATSUM as a protest. He further stated that ATSUM cannot misuse the people living in the valley in order to fulfil their demands, which is between them and the government.

Chinglemba cautioned that ATSUM cannot break the lock which Meitei Leepun put at their head office. If they want to open the lock, then ATSUM should reach Meitei Leepun and after approval, they can open the lock. If ATSUM fails to follow the warning of Meitei Leepun then the opening of their head office at valley will be banned, he asserted.

Tribal Students Condemn Meitei Leepun’s Act and Term it Communal

The apex tribal student bodies including the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM), All Naga Students Association, Manipur (ANSAM) and Kuki Students Organisation-General Headquarters (KSO-GHQ) condemned the unwarranted locking of ATSUM office situated in Imphal near Adimjati on August 4 by Meitei Leepun.

Addressing media persons, AC Thotso, General Secretary of ANSAM called the unwarranted locking of ATSUM office by Meitei Leepun is very unfortunate. The tribals consider the act as a direct challenge to the tribals of Manipur. While terming their movement as not against any community, the student leader asserted that they are demanding for their constitutional rights that have been enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

While stating it is shocked to learn such communal act, the tribal student bodies perceived that it must have been the handiwork of the state government as such act reflects the true colour of the present state government, repressing and suppressing the tribals populace in the guise of “Chingmee, tammee amattani,” reports added.

Railways Minister’s Assurance

Rajya Sabha MP Maharaja Leishemba Sanajaoba has urged the Centre and Union Minister of Railways to take up proper technical measures for the undergoing railway project in Manipur.

MP Leishemba urged for preventing the Marangching-like tragedy at the railway project construction site in future. He made the appeal during the supplementary question hour in Rajya Sabha on August 5.

Recalling the June 29 tragic landslide at Marangjing in Noney district, he enquired about precautionary measures to be taken up to prevent such incidents from Union Railways Minister Ashwini Kumar in the House.

Responding to the question raised by Leishemba, Union Minister Ashwini Kumar informed that the Ministry was taking up necessary technical measures at vulnerable sites. He said the Marangching landslide was very unfortunate while lauding Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren, his Cabinet colleagues and other officials for taking responsibility in carrying out the relief and rescue operation.

Further, the Union Minister said that the ongoing railway project in Manipur is very important and assured that he will try to do level best to avoid such tragic incidents in future, reports added.

Scooter Falls From BT Flyover, Rider Dies

In a rare kind of road mishap, a rider of scooter Honda Activa was killed when he fell from the Bir Tikendrajit Flyover under City Police Station, Imphal West after colliding with a Maruti Swift car on the flyover at around 7.40 pm on August 4.

Reports said the victim has been identified as one Keisham Khomba, 36, son of late Manihar from Kha Lairenkabi Lamshang Awang Leikai. Khomba was travelling on his scooter (Honda Activa MN1AE-5696) from Kangla Western gate towards Uripok when a car (Maruti Swift) with registration number MN01AS-4939 crashed onto him. Khomba fell from the flyover and fell on the BT road below the flyover, reports added.

The driver of the car has been identified as Sanasam Nongpoknganba, 22, son of S Bijoy from Lamshang Bazaar. The City Police Station had seized the Swift car and Sanasam Nongpoknganba was detained. After a post mortem was conducted at the RIMS mortuary the body was received by the family, reports added.

’25 Communities Are Natives of Manipur’

The first Indigenous People’s Assembly organised by the Federation of Haomee (FoH) on August 4 at Adimjati Amity Hall in Imphal declared 25 ethnic communities as the “First Settler/Aborigines/Indigenous and Native People of Manipur.”

As per a resolution of its Assembly, the 25 communities are Anal, Aimol, Chiru, Chothe, Inpui, Lamkang, Liangmei, Kabui, Kharam, Khoibu, Kom, Koireng, Maring, Mao, Maram, Meetei, Monsang, Moyon, Paomei, Purum, Rongmei, Thangal, Tangkhul, Tarao and Zeme.

The ancestors of the 25 communities had recorded history of old-aged origin, stated the resolution. By Family Lineage, the 25 communities are the only indigenous people by blood lineage, it stated.

The Assembly also resolved restrictions against distortion of history and new name shifts of the traditional places and also to protect, preserve and promote the land, distinct cultures, customs, costumes and languages of the indigenous communities.

It also decided to look into the infringement in the rights of the indigenous village chiefs by non indigenous, intimidation and any sorts of violence and oppression on the indigenous people by non-indigenous and forced land grabbing from indigenous communities by outsiders.

It also decided to set up an “Indigenous People’s Council, Manipur” at legislative level to serve the needs of the indigenous populations of Manipur as well as a central interface for the indigenous community with the government.

Legalisation of Liquor Over Our Dead Bodies: Nupi Samaj

The Nupi Samaj on August 3 strongly reacted against Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s statement on legalisation of liquor in Manipur in the Manipur Assembly, and stressed that they will never accept legalisation of liquor in the state.

Speaking to the media at its office in at Lamphelpat in Imphal West, Nupi Samaj President Th Ramani said, the Nupi Samaj was formed in 1971-72 with a particular goal to eradicate alcohol abuse from Manipur, considering the numbers of domestic violence cases and other crimes committed by alcohol abusers.

“Many men have died due to alcohol consumption, leaving their children and women as widows and orphans,” she said, raising concerns about the consequences if liquor is legalised. “Are no other means other than legalisation of liquor to boost the economy of Manipur?” Ramani asked.

The efforts of the state government to legalise liquor is considered as a challenge to the Nupi Samaj and Imas of Manipur. The womenfolk of Manipur will be compelled to take up a strong movement if the government tries to legalise liquor, she said.

“The government should rather kill all the women and the elderly mothers before liquor is legalised. The only way to legalise it is over our dead bodies,” the president added.

CADA for More Stringent Liquor Prohibition Act

The Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA) Manipur on August 2 demanded strengthening the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, 1991 or framing of a more rigorous Act to make Manipur a full-fledged dry state.

CADA Secretary General Geetchandra Mangang addressing the press conference held on August 2 at its office in Imphal East, reacting to Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s statement made on the floor of the Manipur Assembly regarding the legalisation of liquors in Manipur, said that the state government should also be held responsible for all the victims of alcohol abuse as it failed to prevent selling of liquor despite Manipur being a dry state.

He countered CM Biren’s statement that legalisation of liquor will reduce the health impact as it will provide quality liquor. “On what basis will liquor become hygienic if produced with quality?” he questioned.

Drugs Worth Rs 1.9 Crore Seized In Imphal East

One person was arrested and 1.9 kg brown sugar worth Rs 1.9 crore was confiscated by the officials of the Anti-Smuggling unit of the Customs Division, Imphal from the possession of an individual at Mantripukhri in Imphal East on August 1.

Reports said the person arrested was identified as Md Abdul Kalam, 40, son of late Md Satar from Santhel Mamang Leikai, Santhel in Thoubal district.

The seized contraband drug is estimated to be worth Rs 1,93,90,000 and further investigation to nab the other offender(s) of the case is under way, reports said.

Five-Day Blackout Paralyses Tamenglong

Normal life has been paralysed in Tamenglong district in Manipur due to total blackout for the past five consecutive days. All important works have been kept pending due to lack of power supply and poor network connectivity.

Reports reaching on August 2 said mobile phones remained switched-off due to lack of power in the district. At district headquarters, mobile charging facilities were provided and a customer can charge their phones at the rate of Rs 50 per mobile.

As there is no power supply available in the district for five consecutive days, mobile networks have become extremely poor and could not provide its service for 24 hours.

Irregular power supply interruption was badly compounded when Shivalaya Construction Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, which is engaged in constructing a double-lane passage, blasted rocks along Tamenglong- Khongsang road.  It is reported that as many as five electric posts were damaged this time while blasting the rocks for construction of a double lane.

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